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The very basic levels of communication can be carried out without the use of language. This type of communication however is very basic and cumbersome. Language affords human beings the ability to communicate anything they can imagine. As a tool, language is infinitely flexible and can be put to multiple purposes. The following is a list of the purposes and functions of language.
Expressive purposes Language can be used simply to express one’s feelings, ideas or attitudes, without necessarily taking a reader or listener into consideration. When language is used in this way, the speaker/writer is not trying to effect change in an audience or elicit response. He/she is merely giving vent to emotions or needs. Diaries and journals are obvious examples of language used for expressive purposes.
EXAMPLE 1 Tuesday, May 6, 1969 PriscillaWeick’s Fifth-Grade Class A class of angels. I came off a bad session with a previous group and this class picked me up. As I came through the door, Mrs. Weick didn’t see me because she was busy chewing out a boy (a very bright kid). When she did notice me, she was startled, saying, louder than usual, “Oh, hello!” with a trace of leftover admonition in it, and everybody cracked up. Even her. That’s the kind of class it is. I decided to give the Love Poem assignment here, partly because I thought these kids would do something good with it. Today my preparatory talk was tops. As soon as I mentioned “love poems,” there were immediate giggles, so I asked the class why love seems to be an embarrassing emotion. “Because guys make fun of you when you have a girlfriend.” But why do they do that? Are they jealous? It’s odd, because love is supposed to be a good feeling, a positive and creative force. Hate never creates laughter.
INFORMATIVE PURPOSESIn this case, language is employed with the intention of conveying information to others. Therefore, a news bulletin board at your school, textbooks or a cinema guide are all examples of language being used for this purpose.
EXAMPLE 2 Swine flu shuts Woodbrook school One confirmed case, another suspected Thursday, September 17th 2009 The Ministry of Health has advised that one case of Influenza A/H1N1 (swine flu) has been confirmed at the St Theresas Girls RC school in Woodbrook, while another suspected case has been reported at the school….
Cognitive purposes When language is used cognitively, it is with the intention of affecting the audience in some way inorder to evoke some type of response. Therefore, whenone uses language to persuade, entertain, stir to angeror arouse sympathy, one is using language for cognitive purposes. Jokes, political speeches and horror stories are different examples of ways in which language can be used cognitively.
EXAMPLE 3What do you call a fish with no eyes? A fsh
Poetic purposesLanguage used in literary, stylistic or imaginative ways is poetic. The user focuses on the structure and pattern of the language and places emphasis on the manner in which the language is manipulated. Language used for poetic purposes is not necessarily done in verse. It is the way in which the language is used, and not its form, that indicates its poetic purpose.
EXAMPLE 4From the tram, visitors have an amazing bird’s eye view of a truly mature Caribbean oceanic rainforest. Nurtured by warm, gentle rains and rich volcanic soils, the forests have achieved a state of ancient majesty. From LIAT Islander
Phatic purposesSometimes language is used simply to establish or maintain contact among people. This use of language is most obvious in spoken communication. Language used for phatic purposes does not necessarily seek to generate a meaningful response. E.g. when we greet each other saying ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’ we are using language to maintain social customs. We say ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’ automatically as a greeting even though a thunderstorm is raging or we are on the way to chemotherapy. In the same way, you would not expect your cheerful ‘how you doing?’ to be responded to with a litany of all the things that are going wrong in your friend’s life. Although the phatic purpose of language does not often apply to written communication, in the case of letter writing, the greeting and closure are phatic. Informal or friendly letters or e-mail may also use expressions like ‘How are you’ or ‘hi there’ merely for phatic purposes.
EXAMPLE 5Jessica: How are you?Candice: I cool man, what about you?Jessica: I alright.
Metalinguistic purposesThis is the use of language to comment on, refer to or discuss language itself. A critique of your friend’s essay or speech is metalinguistic, so it the blurb on the back of a novel. When you use language to consider language your purpose is metalinguistic.The multiple purposes to which can be put make it the most valuable tool of communication at our disposal. In order to master the art of communication it is important to master the use of language for all its purposes.
EXAMPLE 6In a tersely sardonic meta-dub poem, ‘Dubbed Out’, Jean Binta Breeze distinguishes her work from the rub-a-dub-dub monotony of facile performance of poetry in which meaning is rubbed out in the dub: I Search for words Moving In their music Not Broken By The Beat The spacing of the lines jerking to a halt enacts the beating-down of sense of lyricism; the double- entendre, ‘moving’, extends the conventional conceit of poetry as music – emotive sound – to include the fluidity of the word released from the mechanical rigidity of the beat, and from the fix of the page. Poetry becomes a verbal dance, transmitted word-of-muscle. Carolyn Cooper 1993